My dad sent me a link to this article the other day… It’s an interview with a pastor from a church in Texas call NorthWood Church; his name is Bob Roberts. I had never heard of him or his church before, but he has some interesting things to say.
The overall theme is that he thinks church should be more about what’s happening on the other 6 days of the week, and that Sundays are just a small part of the whole. I whole-heartedly agree with that idea, so this wasn’t a groundbreaking article for me. However, there were definitely a few parts that I thought were VERY good and I wanted to share them here in case people don’t feel like reading the whole article.
Question: You also ask, “What kind of disciples are we producing?”
That’s huge. For years pastors have implied, “Come to church; come to small group; you’ll be a disciple.” It hasn’t worked. That system’s broke. We all know that. Even if we get people into small groups, how many groups are really turning people into disciples that engage the world for God’s kingdom?
Discipleship is more than urging conversions, signing people up for Bible study, and recruiting workers for church programs. The greatest tool for making disciples is getting people to engage the world.
I thought this was a great point. And, I feel like most (all?) people would agree with him that having people just show up to small groups is not enough… something more has to take place. I think the problem though is: how do we do that? What does it look like? He says the key is getting people to “engage the world” but that’s not a clear, easy, programmatic thing… Which is probably why we’re not doing it…
Here’s the next question he was asked:
Question: What did this change of focus mean for you as a preacher?
Humility. Not trying to get people to come back to hear me. But to get them into the world.
Think about it. Why do people come to hear most preachers? Because they’re great preachers. But some kinds of great preaching just anesthetize the church. People will tell their friends, “Oh, you’ve got to hear this.” But that’s the extent of their action. Listening to that kind of preaching leads only to more listening.
Part of the problem is the preacher’s natural interpretation of certain passages. We preachers naturally tend to organize the church around our role. Take Ephesians 4. We’ll preach about the leadership roles: apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher. But we concentrate on the roles of leading the church—we’re focused on our gifts. We’ve neglected everyone else.
What are all those leadership functions for? “For works of service.” We are to preach in such a way that leaders are in the background and we make the heroes the people doing the works of service.
Ok, that last line was the kicker for me: “We are to preach in such a way that leaders are in the background and we make the heroes the people doing the works of service.”
I would revise it and expand the scope though: We need to setup our churches in such a way that all staff, leaders, elders, etc. are in the background and we make the heroes the “regular” people in the church, the people that are going out into society and the world and doing the works of service.
This part was at the end of the interview, and I thought a few of these were really insightful:
Bob Roberts on church and mission:
9 Things I’m Learning and Unlearning
Alright so there’s only 6, because I only cut and pasted a few of them… anyways…
I’m learning … that mission begins with Christology not ecclesiology. Following Jesus leads us to mission, which leads to churches gathering.
I’m unlearning … my assumption that starting churches naturally leads to mission. It doesn’t. Churches default to self-focus unless a commitment to be like Jesus in the world comes first.
Very interesting points… It’s a reminder to me that Jesus didn’t come to start a new religion, or to start new churches, but he came to start a movement of people that will change the world by living out the truth that Heaven starts here, right now. And that the only way we can accomplish this is to do it through communities (churches).
I’m learning … that we serve not to convert but because we have been converted. We serve because Christ has changed us and made us servants to people who are hurting and lost.
I’m unlearning … the assumption that “Christian” is defined primarily as acknowledging a moment of conversion. Becoming a follower of Jesus depends on what happens after that.
Again, wow. GREAT thoughts… Is conversion to Christianity really the end goal of everything we do for other people? If it was, then we shouldn’t have to bother with doing anything for fellow Christians, but I don’t think anyone will tell you that that’s a good idea… We’ve been converted, saved, rescued INTO something, as well as from something. We just tend to focus on the “rescued from” part more than what it is that we’ve been “rescued into” and what we’re supposed to be doing with our life from here on out…
I’m learning … to love people, which means to see them healed, educated, and given the same opportunities that we have.
I’m unlearning … that the Christian faith is all about heaven. I believe the church has denied the future by just waiting for the Second Coming. We need a story that includes the future.
It’s not all about heaven…?
See, that one’s tough. Because it’s not that it’s NOT about heaven, but to me, it seems like we’ve focused too much on “the sweet by and by” and not enough on “the (potentially, if we get our butts in gear) sweet here and now.” Heaven is important, but what’s also important is that Jesus taught that we should pray for things to be the same on earth now, as it is (and was, and will be) in heaven. So, I’m not saying (and I don’t think Bob is saying, either) that we need to stop saying that Christianity is about Heaven, I think we just need to talk about the whole picture.
So for me, it all comes back to this: are the churches that we lead and attend more about Sunday morning or more about the other 6 days of the week? And if they’re not, how do we get there? What does it look like to be a church that happens to have some larger-group gatherings for some specific reasons, but is primarily focused on the impact that it’s people are having on their neighbors, communities, and the world?